Title of the case: Gagan Kanojia and Anr. v State of Punjab
Citation: (2006) 13 SCC 516
Date of Judgment: 24-11-2006
Court: Supreme Court of India
Brief Facts: Two children, named Abhishek and Heena aged six and eight years respectively went to take private tuitions and came back by 6.30pm. On the day in question, when the children didn’t return on time, their father, Kamal Kishore went out to search for them. He, however, came to know that one scooterist wearing a black trouser and a white shirt had taken his children on his scooter. A FIR was lodged by him and during the investigation the school bags and dead bodies of the children were recovered. The appellant no.1 and accused namely Gagan Kanojia was seen with the children sitting on his scooter by his nephew who lived in his house. He was also seen riding the scooter with the children by a taxi driver.
In addition to this, both the appellants went to the house of an advocate and leader of their community and made an extra judicial confession. Later, they made an extra-judicial confession to the father of Appellant No.1 as well which was recorded by the Magistrate. On the basis of this, the appellants were arrested. After arrest, they made disclosure statements leading to recoveries of clothes and tapes by which hands and legs of the deceased children were said to have been tied and also the letter received by the father of the children demanding ransom was in the handwriting of the appellant no. 2. Empty bottles and glasses were also found near the place where the bodies were with the fingerprints of the accused.
Hereinafter, the appellants were prosecuted under Sections 364, 302, and 201 of the Indian Penal Code for kidnapping and murdering the two children and were sentenced to death by the trial court. The Trial Court made reference to the High Court for confirming this death sentence and at the same time the appellants also preferred an appeal before the High Court. The High Court in this case, upheld the judgment and conviction given by the Trial Court, however, it opined that the case cannot be said to be a rarest of rare one meriting award of death penalty and awarded rigorous imprisonment for life instead. The appellants further appealed in the Supreme Court and the complainants as well, have preferred an appeal to the Supreme Court for enhancement of the sentence awarded by the High Court.
(1) Whether the appellant accused were guilty of the offences for which they were prosecuted and whether their subsequent conviction in this regard by the Trial Court and High Court was justified?
(2) Whether the quantum of punishment awarded by the High Court setting aside the Trial Court’s decision to impose death penalty was justified?
Argument Raised by the Attorney of Appellant: `
(1) The circumstantial evidence given by the nephew of the appellant who was a child witness should not be admissible as it was given after a span of 20 days. Also, he had identified the accused at the instance of someone else and his statement was on the basis of a letter.
(2) Delay in the recording the circumstantial evidence of the taxi driver makes it unreliable.
(3) The extra judicial confession made to the advocate and leader of the community shouldn’t be believed as he was also called by the police to be a witness for the recovery and this could indicate bias.
(4) The extra judicial confession made by the appellants to the father of the appellant no.1 was a weak piece of evidence without any material particulars corroborating the same and hence the High Court committed an error by relying upon the same and arresting the appellants.
(5) Recovery of the cello tape and the piece of cloth with which the hand of the children were tied was on the basis of the information given by the appellant himself to the police. This could be done out of compulsion and hence the investigation was tainted and fabricated.
Judgment: The Honorable Supreme Court found that the prosecution case is based on circumstantial evidence. Although it is well-settled that in a case based on a circumstantial evidence the prosecution must prove that within all human probabilities, the act must have been done by the accused but at the same time, the court must not reject the evidence of the prosecution, proceeding on the basis that they are false, untrustworthy, unreliable and made on flimsy grounds or only on the basis of surmises and conjectures. Hence, all the circumstantial evidences and confessions proved both the appellant guilty and hence they were charged with the charges of Section 364, Section 302 and Section 201 of IPC.
With regard to the second issue at hand, the court found and held that the High Court had made no error in opining that the case at hand was not one of the rarest of rare cases. It wasn’t a case where the court would have to exercise its extra ordinary jurisdiction and convert the penalty of a rigorous imprisonment for life to that of a death sentence. As a result the appeal for enhancement of punishment made by the complainant was also declined by the Supreme Court.
(Section 364 of IPC- Kidnapping or abducting in order to murder.)
(Section 302 of IPC- Punishment for Murder.)
(Section 201 of IPC- Causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender.)